Only 30 percent of all girls in Budongo sub-county in Masindi, who enroll in Primary One, finish school at Primary Seven. 70 percent of them are forced out by early marriages, child labor, pregnancy, poverty and neglect.
These figures were revealed after a headcount of all P7 girls in the 13 government-aided primary schools in Budongo. The sub-county authorities based their research on girls who were enrolled in primary school in 2002 and were expected to sit for their Primary Leaving Examinations this year.
Bulyango Public Primary School was worst hit by the drop outs. None of the 30 girls who enrolled there seven years ago are in school today. The last two girls dropped out of school last year before they could join P7.
At Kinyara Primary School, of the 200 girls who enrolled for P1, only 49 will sit for the PLE exams this year.
Florence Acan, Headmistress of Kabango Primary School, says 160 girls enrolled in P1 in 2002. Today only 23 are still in school.
Miss Acan says most of the blame for the drop outs lies with parents. She says parents actively encourage their daughters into early marriages, convincing them that they have no future in education.
To encourage more girls to stay in school, the Budongo sub-county authorities are awarding certificates of recognition to all girls who stay in school up to P7.
Florence Acan says the effort is limited, but a good step towards saving the girls.
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Sharon Tugume is one of the few girls left in Kabango Primary School. Her performance is good and she is looking forward to success in PLE. In her mock exams, she scored aggregate seven, emerging top in her school and one of the best students in the whole of Masindi district.
Sharon says it hasn't been easy for her to stay in school. Her father abandoned his family many years ago and her mother has had to struggle to keep them afloat. It hasn't helped that whenever she walks to school she is harrassed by men who attempt to lure her away from school.
Sharon says she is aware of how lucky she is that she has remained in school.
Joronim Bategeka, the LC3 chairman of Budongo, is the brains behind the P7 girls' certificate awards. He says the program will focus on government-aided primary schools because they are most affected by drop outs.
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There are no statistics on how many girls drop out of school throughout Masindi district. The drop outs also affect boys, but to a lesser extent. Boys are usually recruited to work in sugarcane and tobacco farms, abandoning school completely.
school drop out